Childhood obesity and bullying both are pervasive public health problems. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between childhood obesity and being bullied in third, fifth, and sixth grades while testing for potential confounding and moderation.
A total of 821 children who were participating in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (50% male, 81% white, 17% obese, 15% overweight in third grade) were studied. Generalized estimating equations were used to evaluate the relationship between child weight status and the odds of being bullied as reported by child, mother, and teacher, accounting for repeated measures and adjusting for grade level in school, child gender, child race, family income-to-needs ratio, school racial and socioeconomic composition, and mother- and teacher-reported child social skills and child academic achievement.
In sixth grade, 33.9%, 44.5%, and 24.9% of the children were reported to be bullied per teacher-, mother-, and self-report, respectively. There was a significant independent association between being obese and being bullied (odds ratio: 1.63 [95% confidence interval: 1.18–2.25]). The relationship between being obese and being bullied was attenuated but not eliminated by all covariates except gender. The relationship was not moderated by any of the covariates.
Children who are obese are more likely to be bullied, regardless of a number of potential sociodemographic, social, and academic confounders. No protective factors were identified. Effective interventions to reduce bullying of obese children need to be identified.